[12 Minimum] Starbucks Drinks You Should Think Twice About Before Ordering

barista with drinks
barista with drinks - Bloomberg/Getty Images

When ordering off a menu, especially at a place like Starbucks, it's often hard to know if the drink that you'll eventually pick up at the bar will be one that you genuinely enjoy. The dilemma is there's only so much you can do to research and decide whether a particular drink will suit your taste. This uncertainty can be particularly daunting considering the premium prices of Starbucks drinks, making each choice feel like quite the gamble.

Keeping this in mind, we think several drinks on the Starbucks menu warrant a second thought before you place your order. From our experience, some of these options just don't meet our flavor expectations — they're too bland, too sweet, or just not as satisfying as they sound. Others might be quite different from what you were expecting, whether in terms of taste, texture, or temperature. Of course, there are also drinks with significantly better alternatives available on the menu.

Read more: 26 Coffee Hacks You Need To Know For A Better Cup

Caramel Macchiato

Caramel Macchiato drink
Caramel Macchiato drink - Starbucks Canada / Facebook

When you hear anything with caramel in the name, you might imagine it's going to be ultra sweet. After all, the caramel macchiato is known for its generous caramel drizzle on top. However, the way this drink is constructed can be deceiving in terms of its actual sweetness. Baristas begin by adding vanilla syrup to the bottom of the cup. On top of that, they pour in milk, followed by espresso shots. A drizzle of caramel provides the finishing touch. The amount of caramel varies depending on the barista, but it's usually not excessive. You can request extra caramel or even have it swirled around the inside of the cup, which enhances the flavor, but this drink still isn't as sweet as you might expect.

The espresso shots sit atop the milk and take a while to filter down, so initially, the drink tastes predominantly of milk. You could stir or shake it but doing so alters the drink's layered appearance, leaving you to wait for it to naturally mix. If you're looking for a truly sweet drink at Starbucks, you might want to explore other menu items like a white chocolate mocha or cinnamon dolce latte.

Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew

Vanilla Cream Cold Brew
Vanilla Cream Cold Brew - Starbucks UK / Facebook

Most cold brew options at Starbucks feature cold foam on top, a delightful blend of milk and flavorings that taste akin to ultra-sweet ice cream atop your cold brew. It's, admittedly, one of our absolute favorite parts of the drink.

When considering a Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew, you might assume it also has cold foam on top. However, this particular drink does not include cold foam. Instead, the vanilla cream is poured directly into the cold brew itself. While still quite tasty, it might not meet your expectations if you're specifically looking for a drink with cold foam on top of the coffee. Of course, you can customize it by adding vanilla cold foam on top, but be aware that this will incur an additional charge. If you're hoping for that cold foam experience, we recommend exploring the menu's other cold brew options.

Matcha Crème Frappuccino

Matcha Crème Frappuccino
Matcha Crème Frappuccino - bbearlyam/Shutterstock

Typically, when you order a crème-based Frappuccino at Starbucks, you may expect it to be caffeine-free, as most of the caffeine in Frappuccinos usually comes from the coffee-based varieties. However, two exceptions in the crème line do contain caffeine, which can be somewhat deceptive. The first is the Chai Crème Frappuccino, which contains 20 milligrams of caffeine in a tall size, and 40 milligrams in both the grande and venti sizes, as both these sizes contain two pumps of chai.

The second is the Matcha Crème Frappuccino, which delivers a higher caffeine content: 50 milligrams in a tall, 70 milligrams in a grande, and 95 milligrams in a venti. Therefore, if you're choosing a crème-based Frappuccino to avoid caffeine, you'll want to avoid the Matcha Crème Frappuccino. Despite its bright green color and popularity as a base for many secret menu items, it does contain caffeine.


Starbucks Cappuccino mug
Starbucks Cappuccino mug - John-kelly/Getty Images

It's not uncommon for baristas to be met with looks of confusion when handing drinks to customers. There's perhaps no drink more prone to this than the cappuccino. Very often, when someone orders a cappuccino, they are not actually seeking a traditional drink made with espresso, steamed milk, and foam. Rather, they are expecting a frosty, frozen drink with flavoring, milk, and coffee. This confusion arises because they often mistake a cappuccino for a Frappuccino, ordering the former simply because the term is more familiar to them.

This misinterpretation is further exacerbated by the use of cappuccino in some other coffee shops or even gas stations, where a cappuccino is more akin to a milkshake than the traditional espresso-based drink. In these places, a cappuccino is a sweet, frothy, and often frozen blend, quite different from the classic espresso and milk-centered cappuccino. If you're looking for that chilly, dessert-like beverage, it's best to order a Frappuccino or another similar blended drink.

Nitro Cold Brew

Nitro Cold Brew
Nitro Cold Brew - Starbucks / Facebook

We love the concept of Nitro Cold Brew with its smooth texture and beautiful cascade. However, ordering a Nitro Cold Brew from Starbucks comes with quite a shock. Even though it is a cold beverage, it doesn't contain ice. If you're hoping for a cold drink, the liquid itself will be chilled, but there won't be any ice in the drink to keep it that way. Typically, iced coffee lovers want actual ice in their coffee, so this proves very disappointing when the drink goes from behind the bar to the pass-off counter to the customer.

Of course, you could request an ice cup on the side, but adding that ice will truly ruin the appearance of the Nitro Cold Brew. So, be sure that if you want a Nitro Cold Brew, you're willing to drink it rather quickly and accept that it won't be icy.

Iced Apple Crisp Oatmilk Macchiato

Apple Crisp Oatmilk Macchiato
Apple Crisp Oatmilk Macchiato - Starbucks / Facebook

We are huge fans of apple-flavored treats, so the launch of Starbucks' Iced Apple Crisp Oat Milk Macchiato instantly caught our attention. However, this drink doesn't quite hit the mark. The mix of coffee and apple flavors presents an odd combination that doesn't blend well. Additionally, the drink lacks distinctiveness in its flavors. The apple element is surprisingly muted, failing to deliver that crisp, fruity punch you expect. The oat milk introduces a flavor that seems out of sync with the rest of the beverage.

In comparison to other seasonal offerings, the Apple Crisp Macchiato falls short, especially when placed alongside Starbucks' pumpkin spice selections, which are perennial favorites. These pumpkin spice options seem to capture the essence of the season far more effectively. We find ourselves less inclined toward the apple crisp range that Starbucks offers, and for the time being, when the craving for an apple-flavored drink at Starbucks arises, we'll stick to the familiar and much-loved caramel apple spice.

Hot Chocolate

Hot Chocolate drink
Hot Chocolate drink - Starbucks New Zealand / Facebook

The next time you're in the mood for a cozy and tasty drink at Starbucks, you might consider a hot chocolate. You are probably anticipating a delightful dose of nostalgia, but what you'll find from Starbucks' hot chocolate is quite different. Instead of a cup filled with childlike wonder, you'll encounter a more grown-up version of hot chocolate, one with a noticeably more bitter chocolate taste since it uses mocha sauce. It's akin to a dark chocolate hot chocolate, as opposed to the milk chocolate variety you're likely familiar with.

However, don't worry — you can make a few modifications to enhance your hot chocolate experience. One of the simplest changes is to ask for a tuxedo hot chocolate. This modification is straightforward: Request that your barista replace half of the mocha pumps with white chocolate mocha. This adjustment will add a bit more sweetness to the drink and make it smoother.

If you're keen on maintaining that dark chocolate flavor but desire a touch more sweetness, another option is to ask for a few pumps of vanilla syrup. This will help balance the dark chocolate's bitterness while adding a subtle, sweet layer to your hot chocolate.

Blended Strawberry Lemonade

three lemonade drinks
three lemonade drinks - Starbucks / Facebook

You might be surprised to learn that Starbucks offers blended lemonades, a lesser-known option compared to those widely popular Frappuccinos. While we often hear about the latest blended coffee drinks, blended lemonades tend to fly under the radar. However, they do exist and can be a refreshing choice. That said, one significant issue with these blended lemonades is they often separate quite easily. After sitting for just a few minutes, you'll likely notice this separation starting to occur, which can affect the drink's texture and taste.

If you're craving lemonade at Starbucks but want to avoid this issue, we recommend trying the passion tea lemonade or mango dragonfruit lemonade. These drinks won't be frozen, so you won't have to worry about any separation. Moreover, each offers a delightful combination of sweet and fruity flavors, satisfying that craving for a sweet lemonade. These iced lemonades strike a perfect balance, providing a refreshing and flavorful alternative to blended lemonades without the drawback of separation.

Ethos Bottled Water

Ethos Bottled Water
Ethos Bottled Water - Robert Alexander/Getty Images

When you're at Starbucks placing your order, you might be inclined to grab a bottle of Ethos water for hydration. After all, they're sitting right there by the register, just enticing you to buy one. However, there's a much more cost-effective way to ensure that you stay hydrated: Simply ask for a venti ice water. Not only is this option much cheaper — it is actually free — but you will also find that the water from Starbucks' tap has a distinctly pleasant taste.

The reason behind the unique taste of Starbucks' water is the meticulous care Starbucks puts into ensuring the quality of its beverages, and that starts with the water. To help baristas serve the best coffee drinks, Starbucks uses water that has undergone reverse osmosis filtration. This process removes sediment, poor taste, and contaminants, resulting in water that's clean and has a superior taste profile compared to regular tap water.

Chai Tea

mug of chai tea
mug of chai tea - Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images

When it comes to basic chai drinks at Starbucks, you essentially have two choices: the chai tea and the chai tea latte. The chai tea is relatively straightforward; baristas steep chai tea bags in hot water to prepare it. On the other hand, a chai tea latte is more complex. It's a blend of chai tea concentrate, water, and steamed milk. Many chai tea lovers order their lattes without the added water, which can dilute the drink's robust flavor.

The reason we suggest giving a second thought when considering a chai tea is primarily due to taste. Simply put, the chai tea latte offers a richer and more satisfying experience compared to the regular chai tea. The latte's combination of spices from the chai concentrate with the creaminess of the steamed milk creates a more delightful balance of flavors and textures.

For those looking to elevate their chai tea latte experience further, we heartily recommend adding a shot of espresso to create what's known as a dirty chai. This addition infuses the drink with a robust coffee flavor, making it one of our favorite secret menu tea drinks.

Pumpkin Spice Latte

Pumpkin Spice Latte
Pumpkin Spice Latte - Starbucks / Facebook

Pumpkin spice lattes are more than just a drink order; they've become synonymous with an entire season, inspiring coffee chains big and small to come out with individual takes on this autumnal favorite. The original pumpkin spice latte is great, but at Starbucks, there's another pumpkin-themed drink we love.

For us, the pumpkin cream cold brew is a far superior choice over the original. And it seems we're not alone in this preference. In some years, the pumpkin cream cold brew has even outsold the Starbucks' PSL.

The difference lies in the balance of flavors and the preparation method. The cold brew base provides a less acidic, more nuanced coffee flavor that pairs beautifully with the sweet and spicy notes of pumpkin. Some find that that real pumpkin flavor of the pumpkin spice latte just isn't as sweet as they'd like, but this cold brew variant offers a smoother, sweeter, and overall more enjoyable drinking experience.

Honey Almond Milk Flat White

Honey Almondmilk Flat White
Honey Almondmilk Flat White - Starbucks / Facebook

Flat whites are known for their deliciously smooth texture, and while the regular flat white at Starbucks is a treat, the Honey Almond Milk Flat White doesn't quite hit those same high notes. This variation includes a honey flavor, but instead of using actual honey, baristas use a honey-flavored syrup in this one. This syrup mimics the flavor of honey, but only in taste, not in texture or richness.

The honey syrup used in this drink is relatively thin, designed to mix easily with the coffee and milk. However, the drink would greatly benefit from using real honey, which could add a more authentic, rich flavor and a slightly thicker consistency that complements the coffee better.

Additionally, the overall texture of the Honey Almond Milk Flat White feels a bit lighter than what you would expect from a traditional flat white. This is likely due to the combination of the thin syrup and the almond milk, which is less creamy than whole milk used in regular flat whites.

Pink Drink

Starbucks Pink Drink
Starbucks Pink Drink - Dani Zoeller / Tasting Table

The Pink Drink, once a Starbucks secret menu item, soared in popularity, prompting the chain to officially add it to its menu. This drink is a Strawberry Acai Refresher, but instead of water, it's made with coconut milk. This combination results in a shaken beverage with a pale pink hue, making it a visually appealing choice for those looking to capture a pretty, pink-themed Instagram shot.

While we can't argue against its aesthetic appeal, we're personally not big fans of this drink due to its tendency to have white particles floating in it. We've noticed that the more vigorously baristas shake the drink, the less likely these sediments are to appear, but unfortunately, we still encounter this issue quite frequently.

For those who, like us, enjoy the taste of the Pink Drink but are put off by the floating particles, consider trying the bottled version of the Pink Drink. The pre-packaged, bottled variant usually doesn't present this issue and still offers the same delightful flavor profile.

Chocolate Cream Cold Brew

Chocolate Cream Cold Brew
Chocolate Cream Cold Brew - Dani Zoeller / Tasting Table

If you're a fan of cold brew, Starbucks offers a variety of options, each with its own unique appeal. Among these, the salted caramel cold brew is our favorite, and the Irish cream cold brew is also quite exceptional when available. However, our feelings are mixed when it comes to the chocolate cream cold brew. The main issue with this one lies with the cold foam topping.

If you love chocolate, this may seem like a delicious option, but before ordering, note that this one isn't all it's cracked up to be. While we generally appreciate cold foam for its sweetness, which often adds a creamy, whipped cream-like quality to the drink, the cold foam on the chocolate cream cold brew doesn't hit the same mark. It lacks the sweetness we enjoy, which is a significant drawback. This absence of sweetness and super-rich chocolate flavor results in the drink missing what typically characterizes a well-crafted cold foam beverage.

Iced Caffè Mocha

Iced Caffe Mocha
Iced Caffe Mocha - Dontree_M/Shutterstock

The mocha is a classic staple in coffeehouses. It's known for its blend of espresso, milk, mocha sauce, and often topped with whipped cream. In the iced version, the drink includes ice, and the milk is cold rather than steamed. With a hot caffè mocha, you don't need to worry too much about the thick mocha sauce blending into the drink because all the elements are warm, ensuring everything melts together seamlessly.

However, when ordering an iced mocha, it's essential for the barista to take extra care to ensure the espresso melts the mocha sauce thoroughly before adding the milk to the cup. If not done properly, you might end up with a drink that has a somewhat clumpy texture. Therefore, unless you're confident that the barista has the time to carefully prepare your drink, consider ordering something else. On the other hand, if the cafe seems quiet and not too busy, it's probably safe to order this chocolaty treat.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.